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Ulfa ballistic over bigger army bases

Guwahati, Sept. 15: A plan to expand army bases at two places in Assam today drew a sharp rebuke from the Ulfa chief and put up another hurdle in the way of the slow-moving peace process.

Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua said in an emailed statement that expansion of the army bases at Misa, near Nagaon, and Changsari, on the outskirts of Guwahati, would displace a large number of “our people” from their land.

He said the plan was also against the spirit of Delhi’s decision to suspend army operations against his organisation, fraught as it was with the possibility of “more militarisation”.

“Despite extending the olive branch to the toiling and oppressed masses of Assam, colonialist India has planned to displace hundreds of our people to create space for another military installation. Once completed, the project would force eviction of peace-loving people, destruction of tea gardens, destruction of habitation of innumerable flora and fauna and widespread destruction of the ecosystem of the area,” the statement said.

Describing the army’s move as a “new aggression against the freedom-loving people”, Barua said Delhi was even planning to extend the broad gauge rail track to the Misa military station to facilitate movement of troops.

The Ulfa chief, who is suspected to be in Bangladesh, said Delhi had sought land from Assam through a communiqué to the additional chief secretary (revenue) of Assam. He said Delhi had even invoked the “hated Land Acquisition Act, enacted in 1894 during the British colonial days”.

“The government is already occupying thousands of acres of fertile land since the British left. This land, if cultivated, could provide food to thousands of people. Also, the government would set up a nuclear research centre on the land it has decided to acquire. The Centre would process and enrich uranium found in the state of Meghalaya. Once set up, the project would deprive Meghalaya of its resource and create the possibility of another Chernobyl disaster. The government has no concern for nature, life and livelihood of the people of Asom,” the militant leader added.

The statement came two days after Delhi extended the period of suspension of operations against Ulfa till Tuesday.

The five-day extension was the third since the “cessation of hostilities” by both sides. The third extension followed a letter from mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to take a “personal interest” in bringing Ulfa to the negotiating table.

Goswami and fellow-mediator Rebati Phukan have held three rounds of talks with Union home secretary V.K. Duggal and national security adviser M.K. Narayanan since last month.

Delhi said during the last round of discussions that it would not hesitate to ask the army to resume operations against Ulfa if there were any more reports of extortion, violence or “anything indicative of violence”.

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